Tuesday, 29 May 2012

News About A Broad From Abroad.

Some time ago, I wrote about a friend – the tenant of a rip-off landlady, who overcharged and ‘included’ the council tax that students do not pay, aware my friend was from overseas. Here’s what happened next.

After moving out, my friend searched for a reasonably priced flat available for roughly six months. There wasn’t much around, but finally she found a place suiting her budget and desired location. Having met the landlord a few times, she noticed that he seemed jumpy about how she would afford the rent, asking for bank statements, and requiring several interviews. He asked a lot of questions and needed unsettling levels of reassurance.

He clearly liked the fact that my friend comes from a far-off land, and revealed what (with hindsight) now seems a sinister reason for being pleased his previous tenant had left, saying: ‘…she wouldn’t let me in the flat.’

Now her landlord has been calling round. A lot (and I mean a lot.) He gives advance notice; is affable and polite but spends hours completing simple tasks, like moving a mat (!) She is starting to worry, and has asked him to knock first rather than marching straight in at the pre-arranged time (he has his own key.) She is also realising why the previous tenant ‘wouldn’t let him in.’

The rent is reasonable, the place is nice enough. But the landlord is making more and more excuses to come round – usually to collect his post, which he doesn’t want forwarded (always a bad sign.) I shared my suspicions: she’s innocently but illegally subletting a Housing Association flat. At worst, her landlord might be claiming Housing Benefit from her address: that’s why rent is ‘bills inclusive’ including council tax, and why he is so keen on overseas tenants.

There’s been a lot of coverage about social housing and unauthorised subletting. Offenders are destined to feel heavy Condem wrath (more so than rip-off letting agents and the rare but appalling rogue landlords.) Meanwhile, my friend finds herself in an extremely dubious situation, as no matter what she’s signed, she has no legal right to remain. If the Housing Association get wise to her landlord, I suspect she’ll be evicted (but when her visa expires she’ll be leaving anyhow.)

Just another colourful aspect of the rich and boundless tapestry that underpinning the wonderful world of renting, says you. But while it’s unlikely that my friend will be unceremoniously turfed out, what happens to the next tenant?

I also understand why her landlord wants to hold onto ‘his’ flat. Council or housing association properties are scarce and once in, beneficiaries fight to stay. Unfortunately, the resultant subletting distorts waiting lists, as landlords choose tenants on the basis of those best able to stay incognito rather than by need and vulnerability.

My friend is on extremely shaky ground, but so is her landlord, should he be discovered. He’s still coming round all the time, by the way, and my friend now has a justifiably dim view of renting in the UK, but she’s hardly alone with that. Big stories about rogue landlords make the news, but it’s low level misery like this that is so debilitating.



Ben Reeve Lewis said...

You’ve certainly spotted the signs Penny.

If It is a sublet then the landlord will find that legally, as he is no longer occupying as his sole or principle home he has lost his tenancy rights and wouldn’t regain them if he moves back in.

The head landlord would serve him and your friend with 28 days notice to quit and then go to court for a mandatory possession order.

If I was your friend I would change the locks to stop him coming in whenever he likes. As the tenant, sub or otherwise, she is entitled to exclusive occupation of the property, which includes the right to exclude him. It may be a breach of her tenancy agreement but his repeated visits could give rise to a harassment claim or breach of covenant for quiet enjoyment, the locks change being essential to preserve quiet enjoyment.

If she does a land registry search on the address, about £6 she will find out who the actual owner is

RenterGirl said...

Thanks Ben - I'll pass that on. I think she is stating forcefully that he mustn't come around like: very hard when he is so polite.

Mary Latham said...

Being "nice" is not invading a tenants privacy and many landlords do not realise that they have no legal right to do this regardless of whether they give notice or not. The tenants right to 2quiet enjoyment" overrides a landlord right of entry unless there is an absolute emergency but many landlords cannot get their heads around the fact that giving a tenant keys is handing over Possession and the only way to regain possession is with a court order.

I know that you friend will feel very uncomfortable changing the locks and stopping this man entering her home but he seems not to feel discomfort in invading her snd she must remember that it is he who is in the wrong and she who is being forced to protect her legal rights. She should email him to say that she did not want to take this action but his constant visits are making her uncomfortable and she has been told that this is the correct way to deal with the issue since he has ignored her requests to stop.

It makes me very cross that your friend will have a very poor opinion of landlords in the UK when there are so many of us who reepect our tenants and would not dream of behaving in this way.

I wish her luck

Mary Latham private landlord of 40 years

RenterGirl said...

That is so true that landlords, especially those letting a place they once live din have problem 'letting go' and even visit to undermine tenant security. But in a world where retaliatory evictions are endemic, this can only get worse.

space cadet said...

Thank God for subletting, it has certainly saved me, i'm in one right now. hell, we couldn't be without it, right now. But what dangerous games we're all being forced to play, pitted against each other in this dirty way.

I replied to an ad, online, this week. It was another sublet, until the end of August, in student accommodation. For sure, I considered it aswell. It was an ensuite, it was modern, and frankly, I could have been anyone, as long as I "looked" normal.

It stumbled tho, when he asked for a deposit. Of £200. To cover his own. I told him I couldn't pay it. The trust see, and crucially for me, the element of risk, has to work both ways. I trust that I won't get marched off the premises (he's quick to tell reassure me it won't happen) and he trusts that I won't trash the place. (I'm more likely to start hoovering cobwebs of the ceiling, but he doesn't know that).

He conceded the point. But i didn't end up moving in.

Tesco Value Chef said...

Oh dear. A few years ago I lived in a shared house with a very dodgy landlord. It was on a council estate where a number of the houses had been sold off and he said he'd bought it from the council. We paid cash, a lot of post for him came there, he would let himself in (using the excuse that he stored things in the garden shed) and eventually he turfed me out (leaving the notice to quit ON MY BED!) so that he could move back in.

At the time I just thought he was avoiding income tax but having read this I have a feeling he was subletting.

Ben Reeve Lewis said...

@ Space Cadet I get the impression that you meant your would-be landlord would be living with you?. That isn’t sub-letting as such, only part of the premises and is usually contractually ok with social landlords. Its when landlords move out altogether and sub-let that it becomes problematic. This is the kind of sub-letting the government plans to make illegal.

In my area the problem is huuuuuuge. We have 1,400 homes available and 17,000 people on the waiting list, while these people take up those homes and rent them out at a profit whilst living elsewhere. The landlords (council tenants) are usually the worst for harassment and illegal eviction because they don’t want the nuisance of their tenants bubbling them to their own landlord and losing them the home.

I have one such case at the moment where the landlord, a well known local hard-nut family have already assaulted his 8 and half month pregnant sub tenant for coming to me for advice who didn’t even now she was sub letting. And last month I picked up a case of a homeless family we placed in temporary accommodation leased by us from a local housing association, only to find he was living with friends and renting out the accommodation at double the price through a local high street letting agent.

For once I am totally behind Cameron on this one

RenterGirl said...

I think space cadet was sublet a student housing room. Close to the end of term, this is also quite common. They are so overpriced that this will increase. My friend is okay, and is going to leave quite soon anyway. Like I say: it's the next occupant I fear for. And yes Ben, in London this takes on a whole new meaning.

space cadet said...

@Ben - the landlord was the university or some private management co. I guess, and the student was happy to be out of there. So it would have been just me in there. Are letting agents doing any checks on landlords or what?! Isn't owning the property the most basic of bloody conditions. My blood is boiling again.